Bush's former terrorism adviser denounces him
- Another signal that Bush is losing "the mandate of Heaven"
Bush's Ex-Terror Adviser Blasts President
By TED BRIDIS, AP
WASHINGTON (March 20) - Richard A. Clarke, the former White House
counterterrorism coordinator, accuses the Bush administration of failing
to recognize the al-Qaida threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks and then manipulating America into war with Iraq with dangerous
He accuses Bush of doing "a terrible job on the war against terrorism."
Clarke, who is expected to testify Tuesday before a federal panel
reviewing the attacks, writes in a new book going on sale Monday that
Bush and his Cabinet were preoccupied during the early months of his
presidency with some of the same Cold War issues that had faced his
"It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left
office eight years earlier," Clarke told CBS for an interview Sunday on
its "60 Minutes" program.
CBS' corporate parent, Viacom Inc., owns Simon & Schuster, publisher for
Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies."
Clarke acknowledges that, "there's a lot of blame to go around, and I
probably deserve some blame, too." He said he wrote to National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Jan. 24, 2001, asking "urgently" for a
Cabinet-level meeting "to deal with the impending al-Qaida attack."
Months later, in April, Clarke met with deputy cabinet secretaries, and
the conversation turned to Iraq.
"I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things, and I'm sure they'll
launch their dogs on me," Clarke said. "But frankly I find it outrageous
that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's
done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored
terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something."
The Associated Press first reported in June 2002 that Bush's national
security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to
the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of
The last of those two meetings occurred Sept. 4 as the security council
put finishing touches on a proposed national security policy review for
the president. That review was finished Sept. 10 and was awaiting Bush's
approval when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
Almost immediately after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Clarke said the
president asked him directly to find whether Iraq was involved in the
"Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in
absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a
report that said, 'Iraq did this,"' said Clarke, who told the president
that U.S. intelligence agencies had never found a connection between
Iraq and al-Qaida.
"He came back at me and said, 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a
connection,' and in a very intimidating way," Clarke said.
CBS said it asked Stephen Hadley, Rice's deputy on the national security
council, about the incident, and Hadley said: "We cannot find evidence
that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever
CBS responded to Hadley that it found two people it did not identify who
recounted the incident independently, and one of them witnessed the
"I stand on what I said," Hadley told CBS, "but the point I think we're
missing in this is, of course the president wanted to know if there was
any evidence linking Iraq to 9-11."
Clarke also harshly criticizes Bush over his decision to invade Iraq,
saying it helped brew a new wave of anti-American sentiment among
supporters of Osama bin Laden.
"Bin Laden had been saying for years, 'America wants to invade an Arab
country and occupy it, an oil-rich Arab country.' This is part of his
propaganda," Clarke said. "So what did we do after 9/11? We invade ...
and occupy an oil-rich Arab country, which was doing nothing to threaten
Clarke retired early in 2003 after 30 years in government service. He
was among the longest-serving White House staffers, transferred in from
the State Department in 1992 to deal with threats from terrorism and
Clarke previously led the government's secretive Counterterrorism and
Security Group, made up of senior officials from the FBI, CIA, Justice
Department and armed services, who met several times each week to
discuss foreign threats.
03/20/04 18:36 EST